Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Friday justified the ban on 'Sadda Haq', a Punjabi movie believed to have glorified the Khalistan movement and its leaders, saying the state government was committed to maintain peace and harmony.
"It is our priority to maintain peace and communal harmony in the state... we don't want that the movie should vitiate the communal atmosphere of the state," he told reporters in Patiala after paying homage to Akali stalwart, the late Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra on his 9th death anniversary.
A day before its release, the Chandigarh administration, Punjab and Haryana government banned the film on Thursday as it is understood to have glorified the Khalistan (separate Sikh homeland) movement and its leaders.
The movie is based on events in Punjab during 1980-90s and portrays alleged police torture and other inhuman practices that were reported during that period.
Punjab had witnessed great turbulence during the period in question and many police officers, including Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini, are facing charges for crimes such as torture, murder/extra-judicial killings.
Meanwhile, in Amritsar, radical Sikh outfit Dal Khalsa condemned the Punjab government for banning the film on "frivolous charges" and demanded a rethink on the move.
H S Dhami, the Dal Khalsa chief, alleged that the Akali led Punjab government had suppressed "the right to expression" by banning the film in the state after coming under pressure from the bureaucracy.
Mr Dhami said it was ironic that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which had been at the forefront of the fight to get the film cleared by Censor Board, had failed to convince its own Akali government.
"By banning the film, the Punjab government has belittled the SGPC and Sikh institutions," Mr Dhami charged.
He said that instead of serving it as a "lame duck" and helpless leader, SGPC chief Jathedar Avtar Singh Makkar should quit the post in protest against the ban.
Noting that the Censor Board and SGPC had given their go-ahead for the film, Mr Dhami said that those against its screening were driven by a "communal mindset".
He said the song "Baagi", which has generated controversy, is not a part of 'Sadda Haq' and was recorded by Punjabi singer Jazzy B to promote the film.
According to reports, protests were held against the film at Phagwara and Hoshiarpur on Friday.
Following the footsteps of Punjab, the Chandigarh administration and the Haryana government too banned the screening of 'Sadda Haq'.
Kuljinder Sidhu, the producer and lead actor of the movie who was in Chandigarh, termed the ban as "shameful" and a "black spot on democracy".
Referring specifically to the Punjab government, he told PTI that "Instigated by a few anti-social elements, this government got an excuse to ban my movie.
"When the censor board has approved it, and even the SGPC has given a nod, I don't understand this ban."
This (ban) is a decision taken by a few bureaucrats, he added.
Mr Sidhu said he had tried to meet CM Parkash Singh Badal as well Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, but wasn't given an appointment.
Reiterating that the film had no provoking content and "actually gives out a positive message", he also rued that his point of view had not been heard.
He said that several national and international groups had asking him to take action, "but I have been requesting everyone to maintain peace."
Mr Sidhu said that he was left with no other option than to move the court against the ban.
Meanwhile, the film fraternity had rendered support to Mr Sidhu's right to freedom of expression.
Veteran Punjabi filmmaker Manmohan Singh said, "I have not seen the film, but why the ban when the censor board has cleared it?"
SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar, meanwhile, insisted that the government had taken the decision "from the law and order perspective".
When reminded that he had appointed a five-member panel that saw the film before backing it before the censor board, Mr Makkar argued he himself had not seen the movie.